5 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started My Online Course

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If you’re in high school and you’ve never taken an online course, you probably have a hundred questions. Like, “what are online high school courses really like?” Or “will it be easier or harder than taking a course at school?” We all know hindsight is 20/20, so we asked a few real current and former online students about their experiences. Here are the top things that they wished they’d known before starting an online course.

“There are real deadlines”

And they’re no joke. For most online courses, you get assignments or tests that are due each week (just like in any other class at school). The difference is, you’re responsible for keeping up with your schedule. It’s important to keep a planner and organize yourself, so you always know when your next assignment is due. One of the biggest things we heard from every student was how important it was to set aside time to, not only finish their assignments, but to turn them in. When you have to turn in an assignment by 6 PM, you probably shouldn’t wait until 5:59 PM to submit it. With online learning, you need to accommodate for the unknowns, like technical difficulties or slow wifi connections. So, waiting until the last 30 seconds to turn in your work isn’t the best way to go.

“Your teacher will call you and you can call them”

Most online high school courses also come with teachers – and they’re pretty involved. They’ll probably set up a regular call with you, but in between, they’re always available via text, call, email or even chat. Be sure to note their office hours so you always have that handy, but they’ll always return your calls. It’s in your best interest to stay connected to your teacher so that when you do have a question, you know how to reach out. Many students we talked to said they saved their teachers contact information in their phone right away, so they were always an easy text message away.

“It’s harder to fall behind”

In a traditional classroom, if you zone out for a few minutes you’ll completely miss whatever your teachers just said. There’s no pause or rewind button, so you’re left wondering if you missed something important. With online learning, zoning out for a few minutes, or taking a quick break to check your friends new Insta Story, doesn’t mean you’ve missed any material. You set the pace and have the freedom to pause the lesson. Making it harder to fall behind. This was something that several students told us they didn’t think about but is one of the biggest things they appreciated about taking high school courses online.


student taking an online course outside


“You’re responsible for your time”

In an online course, you’re responsible for managing your time and your schedule. Seem daunting? Well, think about it this way. In high school you’re really not in control of your schedule – the bell rings and you move onto your next class. But, once you get to college that is all going to change. From day one, there are no bells and no teachers telling you where to be and when. Managing your time is all on you. So, taking an online course now really prepares you for that. Meaning, once you get there you know what you’re doing. Being more prepared when you get to college means you can manage your time better and have more of it for yourself.

“You have to engage with other students”

When you think about taking an online course the first thing that comes to mind is, working alone. The reality is, when you take an online course you’re likely still going to have to work with other students. Whether it’s through group projects, online discussions or video study groups – you will have to interact and work with your online classmates. It’s cool to learn how to do that in an online setting, but it also takes some work to figure out. Especially when you’re working with students from all over the world.

Do you have more questions? Take a look at some of our other blog posts, like this one on the common fears of online education. Or this one on how to decide whether or not online learning is right for you. We’re also available via phone or chat. Contact us anytime. 

Top 7 Things They Don’t Want You to Know About Taking Online Courses

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“Take a course to get ahead!” They say… but really, what’s the deal with online high school? Virtual schools are everywhere, but most people aren’t telling you the real reasons to try it.

Don’t like to wake up early? Online courses are ready when you are.

No joke. Taking online high school classes means you work when, where, and how you want. Not an early bird? Log in at noon—your English class is ready for you. Have plans tonight? Log in to get some work done when you get home—your math class is always open. Schedule flexibility is one reason so many students and families are taking their high school classes online. 

Online classes can help you graduate early.

By taking additional credits alongside your high school work, you have the opportunity to graduate early, which means more time to pursue what you love. Maybe you want to work more hours, start college sooner or maybe you’re the youngest pro tennis player ever and you need more time to practice. Take some online classes and you can work toward earning your high school diploma and graduating as soon as you’re ready.

Online does not mean working alone.

It’s not the 90s anymore—online learning doesn’t happen in an isolated underground computer lab. When you take an online high school class, you join a community of learners. You have a real teacher, there are real students to collaborate with, along with clubs and activities to take part in. This connection can feel deeper than traditional courses because in an online school much of the teaching is one-on-one, it’s all about you. 

You can boost your GPA!

Many online schools offer Advanced Placement, Honors and even dual enrollment or concurrent enrollment college-level courses, which can give your GPA the boost it needs to be competitive for college. If your local school doesn’t offer these courses, online high schools (like ASU Prep Digital) may be a way to get the weighted credit that can really help out your GPA.

On the other hand, if you’ve failed a high school course, online learning means you won’t be held back.

Everyone makes mistakes. Before online high school classes, failing a class could have meant being held back and missing out. Now, by retaking that dreaded class online, you may be able to replace the course you failed without repeating it at school.

Online learning helps students figure out how the adult world works.

Much of adult life happens online. From banking to interviews and even remote work, people today have to figure out how to use so many different systems to get through life. Students who take online classes learn how to navigate unfamiliar situations and working environments like they’re a breeze! Taking a virtual high school course means that you’ve got a jump start on adult life—it’s an online class benefit that they don’t tell you about. 

Get a head start toward college.

Want to get ahead of the competition when it comes to college admission? Start college courses while you’re still in high school. A few online high schools offer dual enrollment courses, allowing you to receive college credit from a local community college. You don’t have to drive to your local campus anymore to get the benefits. Better yet, ASU Prep Digital offers concurrent enrollment, allowing students anywhere in the world to be enrolled in both high school and Arizona State University classes at the same time. These University courses count for high school and college credit. And because ASU is a Level 1 Research University, the credits transfer anywhere. Completing these online courses will prove to any college admissions staff you’re ready for the challenge and will save you time and money when you arrive on campus with some of your courses already done.

We understand if you still have fears about taking online courses. While online learning isn’t for everyone, taking even a few virtual high school courses can help you catch up, get ahead or jump start your GPA. Educate yourself about your options and what online learning is really like.

ASU Prep Digital is one way to get there. Learn more, at asuprepdigital.asu.edu



Originally published on September 7, 2017

7 Courses That All Aspiring Entrepreneurs Should Take in High School

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A Note to the Aspiring Entrepreneur

Becoming an entrepreneur isn’t the easy path, but it can certainly be rewarding. The business world is vastly different now than it was 10, or even five, years ago. In this digital age, starting a business doesn’t look the way it did for our parents. More people are trading in the traditional corporate path and opting to start their own companies instead. It doesn’t matter if you’re 15 or 35, your age doesn’t limit your ability to become an entrepreneur. According to this Forbes article, entrepreneurs are getting increasingly younger.

As an aspiring entrepreneur, honing your skills in a variety of areas will be important. Why wait until college to start honing your entrepreneurial mind? You can start now.

Here are the top seven courses that every aspiring entrepreneur should take in high school:


Leadership expert and motivational speaker, Tony Robbins, has found that 80 percent of success is due to psychology and only 20 percent is due to strategy—which means any brand that hopes to succeed needs a CEO who understands how our minds work. Psychology helps young entrepreneurs understand what makes their future employees, customers, and other stakeholders tick. Making everything from interpersonal communications to how you manage your personal mindset easier to navigate. 


Understanding how a country’s economy works allows you to grasp how changes in that economy cause major ripples for individuals and businesses. For an aspiring entrepreneur, recognizing how the fluctuations in the economy can affect industries is paramount to making smart fiscal decisions that lead to a healthy business. Learning how your business could fit into the economy early on can save future entrepreneurs ample time (and money) in the long run.

Personal Finance

It all starts at the individual level and never is that truer than with personal finance. Learning how to budget your expenses, do your taxes, apply for loans and invest in stocks and bonds helps you stay cash-positive enough to fund a future business. You will also be able to use your newfound financial knowledge as a springboard for your business’ finances. Knowledge is power and so many people enter the business world without even a basic understanding of how the financial world works. 


Even the best business ideas can’t survive without the vision and example of a strong leader. A leadership course will teach you everything you need to know about leading by example, managing conflict, and using your reasoning skills to make complex decisions. This course is a key asset in managing future client relationships and current interpersonal relationships.


It almost goes without saying that this course is one that all blossoming entrepreneurs should take. What does it mean to build a business? What are the steps to creating a brand? How do you turn your passion into a revenue stream? A course about entrepreneurship will likely guide you in answering these questions. More and more universities are recognizing the importance of offering entrepreneurship courses — by taking one in high school you’ll be ahead of the curve. 


Communication may be key, but it’s especially crucial in business. With money on the line, how you get your point across makes all the difference. A communications course will teach you how to be clear and concise in all forms of communication (written, verbal, in front of a group, one-on-one and everywhere in between), no unnecessary misunderstandings included.


Similar to a philosophy class, an ethics course will challenge your perceptions of right and wrong, while making you consider your own integrity and values more deeply. Most businesses today actually start off by first establishing their core values. These values are meant to permeate everything they do and serve as a guiding force for the decisions they make. As an aspiring entrepreneur, this course will help you combat the desire to make money over doing what is right while inspiring you to start a business that aligns with your personal values system. 

The good news for high school students? All of these classes can count towards required credits for graduation! If your school doesn’t offer them, you can consider taking a few online to supplement your schedule. 

Check out ASU Prep Digital’s online course list to learn more and get started on your entrepreneurial path.

Saddling Up for a Different Kind of School

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ASU Prep Digital’s slate of online classes gives high schoolers room to move fast, to heal — and even to rope a few calves

The chickens are clucking and the sun has yet to emerge over the cotton fields around Coolidge, Arizona, but Hunter Kelley is already busy.

He has to collect the eggs, feed the horses, cattle and other livestock. He has a rope in his hand — he always has a rope in his hand — and big ideas about the future in his 15-year-old head. Studies have to wait for the tall, lean boy.

A world away in South Phoenix, a big day awaits Nalani Monenerkit at her family’s stucco bungalow. She’s turning 14. A large Spider-Man “Happy Birthday, Nalani” banner hangs over the kitchen table.

After breakfast, she’ll walk down the hall, its walls filled with her artwork and school portraits. The girl with the long dark hair will plant herself in a plain metal swivel chair and dive into her online coursework. She’ll be fixed there, in her T-shirt and jeans with the holes in the knees, at a modest desk in her small bedroom for hours without break.

Nalani’s ideas about the future are less crystalline. She’s still trying to figure out high school.

Maya Rodriguez (center, with fellow freshmen Joshua Ramos and Anna Bacarella at ASU Prep Poly charter school in Mesa) is one of the students benefiting from the flexibility of combining online courses with those at her brick-and-mortar school. Photo by Jarod Opperman/ASU

In nearby Queen Creek, Maya Rodriguez is awake ahead of a tiring day. She readies for the trek from the big suburban house on a cul-de-sac to Phoenix Children’s Hospital. That’s where she attends routine occupational and physical therapy sessions. They are both her burden and her inspiration.

Maya, still just 14, has big ideas for her future, too, but to get there she needs a little help in school.

Enter ASU Prep Digital, a slate of online high school classes, a new initiative of ASU Preparatory Academy, innovative charter schools with an emphasis on providing premium environments for learning. Those are a bridge for Maya. They help her complete her studies when her medical condition wears her down in the classroom.

ASU Prep Digital, introduced in August, offers these young students and hundreds more like them choice. Independence. Flexibility. Futures. The online high school coursework enables students to take as many or as few classes as they want, when they want and where they need.

For some, that’s not always a traditional classroom.

Yet traditional classrooms sparked the idea. Arizona State University looked at its prep schools around the region, saw what worked and wondered why high schoolers couldn’t prepare for college just as well if they took the same courses online.

The prep academies were like a dandelion flower, its seeds drifting into the homes of Hunter, Maya, Nalani and hundreds more in Arizona. Seeds took root around the country and the world. The idea germinated in classrooms within seven Arizona school districts, places like Miami where rural school administrators struggle with threadbare resources.

For them, the goal is to help reinvent learning in Arizona and grant students who may someday enroll in a university a better chance to succeed once they arrive.

For the youngsters enrolled in ASU Prep Digital, the experience resembles a tryout. Hunter, Maya and Nalani all say they hadn’t been certain what to expect.

Meeting different needs

For 15-year-old Hunter Kelley (pictured here and at the top of this story) of Coolidge, Arizona, ASU Prep Digital offers flexibility, freeing up time for him to practice rodeo skills for the competitive circuit. Photo by Jarod Opperman/ASU 

Each teenager discovered ASU Prep Digital differently. Each needed something different. But all three wanted something better than they had.

Hunter wanted a more flexible schedule. When his guidance counselor told him about ASU Prep Digital, he saw a perfect fit.

“This relieves all the stress because now I can do all my work ahead,” he explains.

That frees up time to drill at roping calves, riding bulls and other rodeo skills — skills that can earn big prize money.

Nalani needed a better place to learn. In junior high school, she wanted to learn at her own, faster pace. The teachers had to balance fast and slow learners.  Disruptions made matters worse.

“I felt I was being held back and it was moving at too slow a pace,” she says. “This is quieter. It’s more designed to work for an individual student.”

At first, when she and her mother attended a presentation, she had doubts about studying at home exclusively. She changed her mind.

“I was excited to do it. Some of my family was concerned about my social life,” Nalani says, but she has had plenty of time for both studies and friends.

Pace posed a different challenge for Maya. She lives with multiple sclerosis, and with it comes chronic fatigue, nerve pain and medicine that causes drowsiness.

“School was pretty hectic,” she says of her life at ASU Prep Poly High School, a charter school in Mesa. She placed in advanced classes but opted out. “I would have gotten too far behind.”

With online classes, she can pace herself, rest if necessary, and continue learning. When her Poly teachers told her she could mix her classes, it made perfect sense.

ASU, too, saw opportunity. The university could better serve driven students and those at resource-starved rural schools.

“We partner with superintendents to fill those gaps. For instance, it’s hard to find highly qualified physics teachers,” explains Amy McGrath, chief operating officer for ASU Prep Digital. 

The university brought her and CEO Julie Young on board last January, after they introduced a similar concept in Florida.

Janaya Sullivan (left) looks at the large monitor at the front of the class as students log into the ASU Prep Digital lesson in biology class at Miami Junior-Senior High School. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

In Miami, a mining town of around 2,000 people tucked in the mountains 80 miles east of Phoenix, Glen Lineberry discovered ASU’s efforts in meetings about addressing the state’s teacher-shortage crisis.

The principal of the Miami Junior-Senior High School jumped at the idea.

“A lot of the kids here come from pretty difficult situations,” Lineberry says.

One in five residents lives below the poverty line, U.S. Census Bureau data show. One in four never finished high school, and fewer than half went any farther.

Along U.S. 60, the boarded-up storefronts tell much of the story.

The school runs on less money than it had a decade ago, even after inflation, Lineberry says. His teachers explain history and economics with books written before 9/11 or the Great Recession.

ASU Digital Prep offered the chance to plug a gap — qualified teachers in biology and English at the sophomore level. Students take the certified ASU online classes, but with a teacher in the room “leading the class.” This is blended learning.

“The advantage for ASU is to have a friendly lab to work in,” a real-life place to try it, Lineberry says.

What a day is like

It’s early afternoon on a recent Thursday and Hunter Kelley is cantering across a dirt field on a brown horse. He’s back at home after roping calves at the Lonestar Equestrian Center for two hours.

Hank, a gray, blue-eyed hound; and Zoe, a small black-and-white Toy Aussie, trot across the drive to greet him. Hunter is wearing a white straw Stetson hat, a blue button-down shirt, boots with spurs and jeans with gloves tucked in the back pocket.

He offers a tour of the 5-acre farm at the end of the gravel road. Here sits a bucking barrel. The Kelleys fashioned it from a 55-gallon drum, galvanized pipe and springs. After dinner, Hunter will mount the contraption and his brother will pump it to resemble the jerking of a bucking bull.

Around the corner lies a disused alfalfa field next to the cow pasture. The family drove recycled oil pipes into the ground to form the perimeter of a practice rodeo arena.

As he walks into the large house with vaulted ceilings and custom timber posts, Hunter is still twirling his practice rope. “I rope anything with a pulse. I’ll rope the chickens,” he says, showing a smile with braces.

After a ham and cheese sandwich, Hunter heads into his bedroom to study. It’s all wood and metal, in hues of brown and tan. Homage to the West.

A half-dozen cowboy hats hang on racks and elk horns. A painted wooden poster of John Wayne sits on the bedside table framing the gleaming rodeo belt buckles.

Hunter lays stomach-down on the bed, unfolds his laptop and begins today’s online lessons. He’s still wearing his hat, but that doesn’t stop him from being the only student in his leadership class to communicate by video. The other dozen students type their answers into a chat board. His instructor’s voice over the computer praises him for courage.

The history lesson entails analyzing photos from the Battle of Wounded Knee, differentiating between the objective observation of bodies in a ditch and the subjective interpretation that they had been massacred and dumped.

Hunter runs through his exercises quickly, once calling a teacher on his cell phone to clarify an assignment. Hours later he’s done and planning an evening of rodeo, dinner, more roping on another dummy in the yard and an hour on the bucking barrel.

“At ASU they say: ‘Eat the frogs for breakfast,’ meaning, get the hardest assignments done first,” Hunter says. “You have to be self-disciplined to do online school.”

Nalani Monenerkit is.

It’s her birthday, but she’s not texting friends. Inside her home in South Phoenix, she’s at the small desk in her bedroom, working. Silently. For hours. Without pause.

Nalani Monenerkit, 14, updates her schedule on a whiteboard in her South Phoenix bedroom. She’s taking six classes through ASU Prep Digital, and the pace suits her. Photo by Jarod Opperman/ASU

She’s taking biology, history, leadership, algebra, English and Spanish.

Above the tidy desk, a dry-erase board hangs on the wall. She has written the schedule for all her live sessions for the rest of the week.

Today is biology. The teacher plays a short documentary with David Attenborough explaining the sustainability of the planet. It’s the first time Nalani has joined this live lesson, which lasts about an hour.

The teacher directs the lesson from live streaming video, seen in one panel on the screen. The lesson is in the middle. Communication happens in a separate chat box.

After the video, Nalani answers a question about what she took away from the clip. She says Earth could sustain only 1.5 billion people living the lifestyle of the typical U.S. resident.

“Nalani, I like yours,” the teacher says. Nalani writes down all the questions on sticky notes before she answers them online.

In history, she’s asked to copy the PowerPoint text about European explorers. In handwriting that never strays over the lines, she complies, and slips the paper in a color-coded binder. No papers stick out.

And so it goes — math, English and so on, as a row of Cabbage Patch dolls looks down from a shelf overhead. The only sound is the hum of the small desk fan and gentle taps on the keyboard.

Nalani has more stamina than her grandmother, who retires to the bedroom across the hall. After homework, the two will chat, play with the dog or go to the park. No mention of birthday plans. She’ll hang out with friends on the weekend, she says.

“It’s not a damper on my social life,” Nalani says of studying at home full time. “I’m pretty happy with it.”

For Maya Rodriguez, most days are more structured. She takes only algebra and English online; her four other classes are with the other freshmen at Poly.

She’s out the door by 9 a.m. On this day, it’s Halloween. Pumpkins line the porch behind spiderwebs and lawn decorations. It’s the kind of neighborhood where 100 kids might show up for trick-or-treat, says Maya’s mother, Grisele Rodriguez.

Today, Maya exchanges the obligatory ASU maroon uniform polo for an ensemble of black sweats and huge round glasses. She’s aiming for Edna Mode from “The Incredibles.” With her shoulder-length brown hair and round face, she pulls it off.

She shoulders her floral backpack and jumps in the blue Honda Fit for the five-minute drive to school.

Maya Rodriguez (center) greets friends at ASU Prep Polytechnic in Mesa. The 14-year-old takes most of her classes in person, but ASU Prep Digital’s algebra and English courses allow her to complete her studies when multiple sclerosis wears her down. Photo by Jarod Opperman/ASU

She walks through the glass doors and onto the colorful linoleum floors of Sacaton Hall. A flood of students arrives all at once, breaking the quiet. Some see Maya. A boy says hi. A girl with braids gives her a hug.

Then she’s off to Room 105, where 16 students scattered around square tables will be learning about DNA and mitosis, while Maya — as a “guest student” doing independent study — sits at a table near the corner and practices algebra.

She flips open her silver Chromebook and logs in. She shows another independent-study girl a picture on her iPhone explaining her costume. She has already taken off the bug-eye spectacles, even as other students show off and chatter about their costumes.

The class quiets down. Only the teacher’s voice and the hum of the air conditioner are audible. Maya is wrestling with an algebraic equation full of fractions.

She pulls out a green pen and scribbles formulas on the table, coated with a white dry-erase board. After a few cross-outs, erasures and pauses, the computer program ALEKS tells her she’s ready to move on.

So it goes for most of the 90-minute period. Occasionally Maya gets distracted by the biology lesson, or students discussing the cloning of dogs. Maya smiles quietly and giggles at some of their goofy comments, and then sweats out another equation.

Some mornings, especially after therapy, Maya is too fatigued for independent study. She catches up at home.

“I wasn’t too sure about it at first, because I thought online school would be full time and I didn’t know if I was OK staying home all day and not spending time with my friends,” she says. “Later I learned I could do a hybrid program, and I thought that was pretty cool.”

Maya is one of more than 900 students enrolled in ASU Prep Digital classes. The school launched in August and offers options to take all or some high school courses online.

In Miami, the idea is catching

“It’s going really well. The kids really like it,” Lineberry, the Miami principal, says. “They get that this is a big leap for us.”

He adds that “not every 15- or 16-year-old kid has the self-discipline,” and that leaving them alone with computers and no guidance would have been a mistake.

A group of four sophomores and freshmen all say they prefer the blended online classes.

“I like that you have access to it in and out of class and you have two sources for each class: your teacher and the web. I prefer when the teacher is there because they can answer a question right away,” says freshman Katelin Followill, 15.

Jayden Gross, 16; Riley Guthrey, 14; and Mycala Stapleton, 16; all nod in agreement.

All four say they are learning English and biology faster than they would in a regular class.

Future ambitions

In his bedroom window, Hunter keeps a notecard with a quote from John Wayne.

“Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway,” it reads.

Hunter is saddling up. ASU Prep Digital enables him to pursue his dream of being a champion rodeo competitor and running his own business, just to bring in steady income.

“With this, I can do my work on the road. I have a hotspot and I can do my work anywhere on a laptop,” he says. When he recently traveled to a rodeo contest in Phoenix, he finished his work in the car.

That’s the difference between perfecting his craft and not. He planned to compete in a national rodeo contest in Las Vegas in December.

If Hunter were still full time at Florence High School, “I’d have to miss out,” he says. Instead, he’s getting several hours of rodeo practice in a day and plans to take college-credit courses through ASU Prep Digital toward a business degree after high school.

Nalani hasn’t decided on her future yet. She knows she wants to go to ASU. The playbills on her wall show her love of theater. Her mother, Verna Monenerkit, says Nalani drives herself hard and has talked about a career as a lawyer, a fashion designer or both.

Nalani can’t articulate yet what ASU Prep Digital means to her. But she’s clear on what life would be without it.

“I probably would have been really bored and slacked on academics, and not really done too well,” she says. “I probably wouldn’t have been interested in ASU. Before, I didn’t really know where I wanted to go.”

Online courses are a bridge for Maya Rodriguez of Queen Creek, allowing her to keep up while attending routine occupational and physical therapy sessions. Photo by Jarod Opperman/ASU 

For Maya, it’s all about what’s possible now. “It means the world to me,” Maya says.

“It gives me the flexibility I need to make my education whole,” she adds. “If this works out the way I want it to, I’ll have time to do everything to learn, to heal, to learn how to help myself and to learn how to cope with everything.”

Inspired by her therapists at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, Maya wants to be a children’s occupational therapist herself. Her visits are her salvation.

“My break is going to my appointments and doing my stretches and working out and having fun and seeing all the little kids doing the same things as me,” Maya says. “When you walk in there, your heart just melts to see all the babies.”

She can picture how her goal is attainable, even if she might have to take longer to get there.

But ASU Prep Digital is not exclusively focused on the self-disciplined, hard-driving kids like Maya, Nalani and Hunter. Administrators such as McGrath have plans, too.

Her goal is to sign up 15,000 enrollments by August 2018, a tenfold increase over the current target. A year later, she aims for 20,000.

In addition to the part- and full-time online students, ASU also wants to grow the ranks of blended classroom students.

The university is not just offering those “gap” classes to help struggling high schools bring in subject experts. ASU Prep Digital offers 50 high school classes, ranging from freshman to senior level, in courses that include Arabic and psychology.

ASU Prep Digital is supported with state revenues for full-time Arizona students and a reduced tuition rate for part-time Arizona students. Students enrolling outside of Arizona or internationally pay tuition. Private philanthropy has also provided support to assist with early-stage development. In addition, ASU offers 70 college-level courses for a fee.

“It’s kind of unprecedented,” McGrath says. “We want to drive kids to (college) where they can succeed, to advance when ready, instead of being confined by a traditional school.”

Success will be measured by hitting national benchmarks for evaluating subject mastery.

“We are trying to illustrate what the future of education looks like,” McGrath says.

At Miami High School, Lineberry credits the university.

“We are meeting expectations and beginning to work on how to expand our curriculum,” he says, noting that online classes won’t end Arizona’s chronic teacher shortage, but they help.

The four freshmen and sophomores all say they plan to go to college. This is a town where one in 10 do, according to census data. Their parents, many current and former copper mine employees, want better for them.

“I’d like (ASU) to continue with it and keep the program going so people behind us can have a better future. Learning is a big part of your life. Kids will have a better future if they learn,” says Miami sophomore Jayden Goss.  

Hunter Kelley twirls his practice rope. Photo by Jarod Opperman/ASU

Meeting students where they are

ASU Prep Digital is just one of the ways Arizona State University offers different approaches to college attainment.

Degree completion is a critical need in Arizona, where just 28 percent of adults age 25 and older hold a bachelor’s degree, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. ASU is working with the state in support of Achieve60AZ, an alliance of 60 community and business groups to make Arizona more competitive by supporting a goal of achieving 60 percent of adults, ages 25–64, with a professional certificate or college degree by 2030.

By 2020, 68 percent of all jobs in Arizona will require some form of postsecondary education, according to the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.

Recognizing that flexibility is a top priority, ASU offers several pathways to a bachelor’s degree.

Global Freshman Academy: Students can choose among 14 freshman-level courses, such as pre-calculus, English 101 and Introduction to Solar System Astronomy, tuition-free. If they pass a course, they can then choose to pay for ASU credit.

Transfer pathways: The Maricopa-ASU Pathways Program, or MAPP, specifies exactly which courses are needed for each major at ASU, so that community college students can avoid wasting time and money on classes that don’t apply to a degree. Students who meet the requirements are guaranteed admission. ASU also has transfer pathways with other Arizona community colleges, including tribal colleges, as well as institutions in California and other states.

Concurrent enrollment programs: ASU partners with the Maricopa Community Colleges in a program to accelerate the path to a bachelor of science in nursing, requiring only one semester beyond an associate degree.

Stay-in-place in rural Arizona: ASU partners with three institutions in rural areas to offer a handful of bachelor’s degrees on a community college campus: Eastern Arizona College in Thatcher, Arizona Western College in Yuma and Central Arizona College in Coolidge.

Fast-track degrees: For students who are looking to finish quickly, there are 18 degree options that can be completed in two and a half or three years.


Written by Sean Holstege. Top photo by Jarod Opperman/ASU. This story appeared in the January 2018 issue of ASU Thrive magazine.

Old Enough: Why Age Doesn’t Matter

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How ASU Prep Digital Allows Students to Learn Dynamically

Everyone has heard of students who have transcended the boundaries of age: the high schooler who starts her own business, the middle schooler who enrolls in online high school courses, the retiree who gets her high school diploma. These paradigm-breakers resist the traditional age expectations assigned by the year they were born. They do the work at their own pace of intelligence and go where their life calls them. Can you imagine what we could achieve as a culture if all people viewed lifelong learning this way? 

Those who have reached beyond their age are often labeled prodigies or phenoms. No doubt when you hear these stories, you remember back to your own experience in school. How many of us have felt held back when we had an intellectual leap that our peers did not? Or, maybe we watched as our peers moved ahead while we needed a little more time.

Some learning models naturally accommodate these leaps and pauses in the spectrum of learning and living. Multi-age classrooms or one-room schoolhouses follow the child through their learning, encouraging individualized paths. But the larger and more regulated educational systems became, the more out-of-focus the student appeared. This isn’t blame-placing; traditional educational systems operating at capacity often struggle to resist mission drift. 

In my world, age matters a little less than it does in other places. At ASU Prep Digital, students progress at their own pace through online high school and concurrent enrollment in college courses. It’s the expectation, not the exception. By getting what society perceives as a head-start, ASU Prep Digital students benefit from being seen apart from the norm — giving them a distinct, concrete advantage when they apply to college. And perhaps most importantly, by eliminating age as a construct in learning, students are empowered to shape their worlds and contribute to the global community.

To break the paradigm of age as a barrier – and as a construct – on a systemic level is an absolute game changer.

There is no more effective way to change the world, at both the community and global levels, than to liberate our students of all ages to learn faster, better, and smarter. More and more, the workforce of today is dynamic. The career you start will likely not be the career from which you retire. Or maybe, you don’t retire at all but instead, continue to work well into retirement age.

This concept of moving forward—beyond age, to allow each student to work toward their goals at a pace that matches their needs and ambitions isn’t new, but there are very few places in the world where this is the standard instead of a deviation. ASU Prep Digital is growing exponentially to meet the needs of the students and families who see this opportunity for what it truly is—the ideal way to educate students for a dynamic workforce. 

To learn more about ASU Prep Digital and their teaching model, read this blog post.  

A Day in The Life of an ASU Prep Digital Student

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So you’re thinking about enrolling in college classes online, as a high school student? You may have questions about how this new process will work within your current reality. What can you expect your day to look like as a part-time and full-time ASU Prep Digital student?

Let’s look at a day-in-the-life of an ASU Prep Digital part-time and full-time student.

Part-Time Students:

Students can usually plan on spending about 4 hours per week, per course. You may start your day going to a traditional high school or homeschool situation. Then at some point, head over to a coffee house, library or back home to start your online coursework.

Part-time students will typically start their ASU Prep Digital work by logging into their student dashboard to check for updates or messages from their personal success coach, teachers or fellow students. It’s important you take a minute to reply to those messages and check-in with your coach and teacher with any questions or concerns — then jump into some coursework. This can involve watching course videos, reading articles, reviewing course modules and working on outstanding lessons. Each week your teacher will host a live video forum which you can join or watch the recorded version at their convenience.

If it is an exam week, you may spend time studying on your own. Then, once you’re ready, you’ll log in and complete the exam online. All tests are open-book, but require higher-level thinking to answer questions.

Being a part-time student at ASU Prep Digital is convenient and challenging — giving you a taste of what learning at the college level is like, all from the comfort of your own home…or favorite coffee shop.

Typical Day for a Part-TIme Student

Full-Time Students:

A typical day as a full-time student is really similar to being a part-time student. If you’re taking 4 courses or more you can usually plan on an average of 5 hours of class-time per day. The great thing is that you can do this whenever and wherever you want. You may work a part-time job or play competitive sports and it’s easy to schedule your class work around your shifts and practice schedule.

Your daily routine consists of checking in with your success coach and teachers, as needed, to get a pulse on how your pacing your way through each course and working out the plan that you created at the beginning of the semester. Then balance your time between working through lessons, watching course videos and reading materials that relate to your subjects. You’ll have weekly live lessons with your teachers and you may even schedule a chat with them if you’re in need of additional help in a particular subject.

In a full-time environment, you will have the opportunity to collaborate with your peers on projects, develop products or business ideas, present them as part of your coursework, and even take virtual field trips to different countries (as part of your language course). Assessments are done throughout the semester and typically follow the pattern of a college term: quizzes, tests, mid-term exams, and finals.

Typical Day of a Full-Time Student

Every day is different and affords each student incredible opportunities to develop their leadership and critical thinking skills. Take a break when you need to. Meet a friend for lunch in between lessons – it’s totally up to you and when you work best. You literally get to set your own schedule and with the help of your teachers and success coach, you can customize an online learning experience that works for your life.

To learn more about online learning or about ASU Prep Digital, visit our website or read more posts on our blog.

Take The Stress Out of Freshman Year With Concurrent Enrollment

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Planning Ahead Can Pay Off, Literally.

How To Avoid Repeating Your High School Senior Year During Your Freshman Year of College

For most students, the transition from high school to college can be a scary one. And who can blame them: going to college means adopting a brand-new, independent lifestyle—one with a much heavier workload than many high schoolers are used to. What’s more, college prerequisite courses are often duplicates of AP, IB, or higher-level classes offered in high schools. With all those changes in tow, who would want to take on more than is necessary?

In his New York Times article, Tamar Lewin delves into a report by Complete College America to find that the amount of work required to obtain a four-year degree is more than most students can manage. “At most public universities, only 19 percent of full-time students earn a bachelor’s degree in four years, the report found. Even at state flagship universities — selective, research-intensive institutions — only 36 percent of full-time students complete their bachelor’s degree on time,” says Lewin.

Thankfully, technology gives us innovative ways to tackle these sort of problems. Enter concurrent enrollment. ASU Prep Digital’s concurrent enrollment option allows high school students to take college courses that earn them a two-birds-one-stone credit. Completing a concurrent enrollment class gets you closer to earning your high-school diploma and fulfills college prerequisites. In fact, you can get up to two years of college credits done before you even set foot on campus by taking concurrent enrollment courses throughout your high school career.

Here are some of the concurrent enrollment courses ASU Prep Digital offers that can give you a stress-relieving college jumpstart:

College Algebra

Knock out those math credits in high school and college. This course teaches you all you need to know about linear and quadratic functions, systems of linear equations, logarithmic and exponential functions, sequences, series, and combinatorics. What’s more, you can learn it all in the comfort of your own casa.

Communications in Business and the Professions

Thinking about getting a business degree? Get ahead of your major by taking this class. This course qualifies as an elective, so even if you aren’t sure a business degree is your calling, you can use the credit to fulfill elective prerequisites at the college of your choice.

Art in My World

Try this class if you like the sound of a creative elective. The course covers basic concepts and fundamental questions that provide insight into art. Students receive elective credit at both high school and college levels.

First Year Composition

Double up on English credits by taking this class. By completing this course, you get credit in both 12th grade English and English 101. Develop your literary skills with an in-depth look into articles, speeches, rhetoric and more.

Global History to 1500

History courses are required in both high school and college, so why not get credit for both concurrently? In Global History to 1500, you learn about the ideas, events, and people from the first civilizations to the Mongol invasions of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. You also get credit for Ancient and Medieval History in high school and social studies in college.

These are only a handful of examples. With over 60 courses to choose from, there are dozens of opportunities to earn college credit and finish your four-year degree in half the time (and double the chill). 

Download our free Course Name Cross Reference Guide to see which high school courses you can replace with ASU Prep Digital courses that will earn you double the credit in half the time.

Not to mention, getting a few credits out of the way in high school means you won’t have to pay for those courses when you get to college. Read more about how concurrent enrollment courses save time and money.

Still have questions about concurrent enrollment? Learn more about what it is and how it’s different from dual enrollment.